Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Backup Goalie, Spezza & More

The Toronto Maple Leafs host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, Nov. 9 looking for their fourth straight win, and that’s something the team hasn’t had this season – a long winning streak. Recently, Frederik Andersen has played really well in goal and Auston Matthews keeps scoring. All has been good – well, for three games anyway – in the land of the Blue and White.

Related: Auston Matthews Is Better than Leon Draisaitl

As the team readies for their Hockey Night in Canada matchup, the following news is emerging from the team.

Item One: Matthews Scored Goal #13 on Thursday

Matthews scored his 13th goal of the season in Thursday’s 2-1 overtime win over the Vegas Golden Knights. That goal tied the game in the third period, which led to the team’s comeback win. Matthews has five goals and three assists in the last six games, with 19 points in 17 games on the season.

Columbus Blue Jackets Nick Foligno Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nick Foligno protects the puck from Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

For fans that recall the 2018-19 season, Matthews scored an incredible 10 goals in his first six games and then was injured. He didn’t score his 13th goal last season until Dec. 1 (he missed all but one game in November.)

Item Two: Marincin and Petan Clear Waivers

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported that both Martin Marincin and Nic Petan were unclaimed by other teams, and thus cleared waivers. Marincin can be sent to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies but remains with the team for now. Petan was sent to the Marlies as soon as he cleared waivers.

Item Three: Are the Maple Leafs in Search of a Backup Goalie?

Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star reports that the Maple Leafs could use a backup goalie. He also reports that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is trying to avoid trading any more draft picks in any forthcoming moves. He believes that, if the Maple Leafs need to make a trade – and, as noted, he believes a backup goalie is highest on their list – they’ll be forced to move someone (some ‘spare parts”) from their roster or from the Marlies. (from “What’s next on the trade front for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs?” Kevin McGran, The Star, 11/06/19)

Toronto Maple Leafs Michael Hutchinson New Jersey Devils Miles Wood
Toronto Maple Leafs’ current backup goalie Michael Hutchinson. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

I have two thoughts on McGran’s thinking. First, I agree that Dubas should be reticent to trade any more draft choices. Second, I disagree that Michael Hutchinson is a bad backup goalie. As I noted in an earlier post about Hutchinson, his deployment is a big reason why he has a poor record. Head coach Mike Babcock has used him in the second game of every back-to-back the Maple Leafs have played this season. Being the goalie in the second game in two nights is tough work.

Related: Sparks Proving Dubas Was Right

Item Four: It’s Not True that Spezza Wants to Leave Toronto

As reported by The Fourth, Jason Spezza wants to make it clear that he doesn’t want out of Toronto. Although a report has suggested the potential Hall of Famer might be upset with how he’s being used in the Maple Leafs lineup, when Spezza’s agent Rick Curran was asked if that were true, he told The Fourth Period that the rumor was simply “not true.”

No doubt Spezza is like most other hockey players: he wants to play. And, it’s probably wise speculation that he is disappointed. Still, he is adamant he wants to stay with the Maple Leafs this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeffrey T. Barnes)

With the upcoming return of Zach Hyman from ACL surgery and recovery, some changes have to be made to make roster space for Hyman. Thus, the Maple Leafs are expected to trade or waive Nick Shore or Dmytro Timashov or waive Spezza (he has a no-trade clause but he can be waived). 

Item Five: Mike Babcock Wins #700

Babcock’s Maple Leafs beat the Golden Knights in overtime, he passed a rare milestone. He registered his 700th career win.

Babcock is only the eighth coach in NHL history to win 700 games, and he joins a small group that includes Scotty Bowman (1,244 wins), Joel Quenneville (897 wins), Ken Hitchcock (849 wins), Barry Trotz (821 wins), Al Arbour (782 wins), Lindy Ruff (736 wins), and Paul Maurice (703 wins). Quenneville, Trotz, and Maurice remain active NHL coaches.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

After their Saturday tilt with the Flyers, the Maple Leafs begin a very difficult schedule. They fly to Chicago to meet the Blackhawks on Sunday evening. They have two days off before heading to New York to play the red-hot Islanders on Wednesday. They then come back to Toronto to play their nemesis, the Boston Bruins, on Friday evening and then turn around and skate into Pittsburgh to play the Penguins.

Related: Matthews, Nylander Score in the Third Period as Maple Leafs down Kings

Is it my imagination, or do the Maple Leafs ever go more than a week without a back-to-back game? That means, as I noted earlier, that Hutchinson will get two starts during the second games of those back-to-backs. I for one know that I’m rooting for Hutchinson to win both of those games.